Audio improves eLearning

Audio can substantially improve learning outcomes

Audio narration can yield an average learning improvement of 80%.

You should never use audio in a gratuitous manner. Want to depress a student’s learning capacity, read to them. Reading text that appears on screen is highly counterproductive. It is a waste of the student’s mental bandwidth and your computer’s bandwidth.

You use audio in very specific situations. Audio should be used in situations where information overload is likely. A good example is using audio narration to walk people through a series of screens, a sequence of steps in a software application, a series of images, or an animation. Ruth Clark notes that “if you have to read text and at the same time watch the animation, overload is more likely than when you can hear the animation being narrated.” One eLearning Best Practice is to give the student control over the audio player. They can start, pause, and replay the audio to ensure they understand the point you are trying to make.

Lessons Learned

I often get into discussions with a good friend and colleague of mine about the quality of the audio. We are both audiophiles spending a lot of time with headphones and now ear buds listening to audio. Our slight disagreement is with the quality of the audio produced when using a USB headset vs. a USB desktop microphone. My perspective, achieve the best audio you can record by using a good USB desktop microphone. I believe headsets are to inconsistent in the audio quality they deliver.

We have created a fair number of Rapid eLearning courses. In the early days we recorded the authors using Skype using a Skype to landline phone connection. We then were able to move our authors to a Skype-to-Skype digital connection online. This made a huge difference in the quality of the audio. The only issues we encountered happened when our authors used a wireless connection and headset in their location. Their PC’s audio card did not have enough power to create clean audio over wireless.

The optimal solution is for the author to create their own individual audio recordings. They have total control over the editing process at this point. Again, I would recommend a good USB desktop microphone to produce the best quality audio.